Music Review: EMF’s “Stigma”
EMF’s Stigma is a real overlooked gem, in my opinion, that must have completely missed it’s target audience. Shubert Dip was a perfect bit of high-school music — not too deep, great pop hooks, and just enough edge to annoy the parents. Stigma is a gigantic leap in maturity, songwriting, and complexity from Shubert Dip, and so it must have sailed high above the heads of EMF’s teenage audience at the time. And, of course, those who could best appreciate it wouldn’t touch an EMF album with a stick. Too bad, because this album is a real find — no single song sticks out like “Unbelievable” did, as an instant mind-numbingly catchy hit, but you’ll find yourself hitting repeat on the stereo again and again — the quality of the songs come out after a handful of listens, until you find yourself absolutely hooked. Stigma joins the short list of 5 or 6 albums in my collection that I have worn out playing, that I could listen to exclusively for a week without tiring of it — and Shubert Dip did not make that list, by far. It’s still has that definitive EMF sound, with the same almost-snottiness from the lead singer, but at the same time is so stylistically deeper than the previous album that you wonder if they are the same band. They take the same dark, sinister tone of “Lies” from Shubert Dip and really run with it for an entire album.
It’s a real shame the album didn’t do better commerically, as this band really should have been rewarded for making such a fantastic leap in skill. No band that successfully graduates from teeny-bopper fluff to what I have to call more “adult” music should have been squashed like they were. Imagine N’Sync suddenly putting out a Neil Young-worthy album, or more accurately, imagine the Spice Girls morphing into the Indigo Girls in the span of two albums. Shouldn’t this be more encouraged? If “Unbelievable” is your guilty pleasure that you think you’ve grown out of, give Stigma a chance. There at least really ought to be a moratorium on the EMF bashing — give ‘em a break, they put out some great music, they’ve gone through enough, they’re not beneath a place on your CD shelf!